I just returned from a two-week trip to Budapest and Vienna, two cities that once belonged to the same empire but with different outcomes; both of them right in the centre of Europe. I flew from Bristol to Hungary and after a few days in the capital, I took a Flix coach to Vienna.
The city layout of Budapest reminded me of Prague, and there is something French about Vienna; the style of the palaces and the buildings, perhaps. Both cities are excellent for people-watching, visiting cultural sites and just wandering about, and in the case of Budapest, also eating; food is cheap, tasty and abundant. It seems to have quite a food culture, not unlike Spain. The Great Market Hall, built in beautiful Neo-Gothic style was a favourite place of mine, when it comes to food. Plenty of stands and restaurants featuring Hungarian food and restaurants to choose from.
Separated by the Danube, but united by several bridges (I loved the Liberty Bridge), two cities lie. Buda is the residential area next to the Castle grounds and Matthias Church. Across the Danube, on the Pest side is where you can see the Budapest Parliament, offices, cultural and touristic spots. The magnificent St Stephen’s Basilica is located there as well.
The Széchenyi Chain Bridge, below, is one of the several bridges that separate the two cities, Buda and Pest, which used to be apart. Built between 1839-49, this bridge has a definite English flavour; its design was inspired by Hammersmith Bridge (London), and even the lions reminded me of the felines in Trafalgar Square.
I thought Hungarian people were taciturn and kept to themselves, compared with the Viennese, where you can see more “joie de vivre”. Tourism-wise, it does not seem to be a tourist trap, yet. Although it’s true that I traveled in September, I thought it was as Barcelona used to be 30 years ago, before it became the major tourism destination it is today.
For anyone wishing to go, I would recommend wandering the streets to admire the Art-Decó architecture and a visit to the Liszt Ferenc Music Academy, which is stunning (Hungary has a rich music history, from Liszt to Béla Bartók among many others). Visiting the Budapest History Museum, on the Buda Castle Grounds, will give the traveler plenty of historic context when it comes to this very interesting city. Of course, do not forget to take a look at the Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library, located inside a Neo-Baroque palace.
Budapest is beautiful all hours of the day, but that moment, as the day ends and the sun sets behind the hill that seats the Buda Castle Grounds, is truly a sight to behold. The dimming light is projected onto the Parliament and its golden reflections shine on the Danube.
Although Budapest offers plenty of beautiful spots to admire, it is possible to venture a bit away from the city. The photo below shows the sunset in Esztergom, about 46 kilometres from the capital, featuring an impressive basilica by the Danube. This town, (one of the oldest in Hungary) is easily reachable by train.